Vintage landscape: perspective, western prairie

I’m traveling until next week. In the meantime, please enjoy these vintage images of the American West.

“Highway U.S. 30. Sweetwater County, Wyoming.” Photo by Arthur Rothstein, March 1940.

All photos via the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

“Ranch mailbox near Farson, Wyoming,” by Marion Post Walcott, September 1941.

“Highway leading to Grey Bull, Wyoming,” by Marion Post Walcott, September 1941.

“Sheep grazing, snow fence in foreground, northwest of Great Falls, Montana,” by Marion Post Walcott, September 1941.

“Breaking sod on the range for a crop of crested wheat grass, Madison County, Montana,” by Arthur Rothstein, June 1939.

“Sandy soil blown against fence, Oeida County, Idaho,” by Arthur Rothstein, May 1936.

“Sign cautioning care in use of matches and cigarettes on the prairie. Near Marfa, Texas.” Photo by Russell Lee, May 1939.

And this point of view . . .

Eternal prairie and grass, with occasional groups of trees.  Frémont prefers this to every other landscape.  To me it is as if someone would prefer a book with blank pages to a good story.

– Charles Preuss, Exploring with Frémont

Preuss was a mapmaker who accompanied John Frémont on two of his explorations of the American West in the 1840s.  Together, they mapped the Oregon Trail and discovered Lake Tahoe.

Frémont — who was later the first Republican candidate for President — always played the iconic hero-explorer;  Preuss, at least in his diaries, was a grumbling realist.  “My pants are torn,” was the gist of his comments for the day the Frémont planted an American flag on what he believed was the highest place in the Rocky Mountains.

There’s a funny account of Preuss, here, on This American Life:  “The Homesick Explorer.”  And here.




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